Trying to keep your home warm throughout the Champagne winter can get costly, especially during unusual weather patterns like a bitter polar vortex. Two of the options for heating your home include heat pumps and electric heat furnaces. Discover the difference between these options and which one will cost you less.
What’s the Difference Between Heat Pumps and Electric Furnaces?
Both heat pumps and electric furnaces use electricity to heat your home. How they accomplish this is vastly different, which means how much it’ll cost to heat your home will also vary widely.
Electric furnaces have heating elements made of a resistance metal alloy that glow red hot when an electric current passes through it. The circulating air moves over these heating elements, warms up, and then travels through ducts into your home.
Heat pumps use a refrigerant to absorb heat from a source outside your home and bring it into the coils inside. The refrigerant coils warm up, the resulting radiant heat transfers to the cooler air, and warm air moves through the system. Whereas an electric furnace uses electricity to create heat in the resistance coils, a heat pump uses electricity to run a compressor, making the refrigerant warm enough to release enough heat to warm your home.
Heat pumps have different models, each with a different heat source. The most popular is the air-source heat pump, which is similar to an air conditioner using an outside unit to absorb heat from the air. There are also ground-source geothermal heat pumps, which use buried refrigerant lines to absorb heat from below the frost line. Finally, there are water-sourced heat pumps, which run the refrigerant lines through water deep enough that it doesn’t freeze.
Cost to Install
Regardless of which system you choose to install, the size will affect the installation cost of the unit. An electric furnace may run anywhere from under $2,000 to over $8,400 to install if you already have a central system. It may run as much as $20,000 if you don’t have ductwork installed already.
Heat pumps are more expensive, with air-sourced models costing less than geothermal models. Air-sourced heat pumps may range anywhere from around $4,000 to over $10,000 if you already have ducts and more than $15,000 if you’re installing fresh ductwork. A geothermal heat pump may range from $18,000 to over $45,000, depending on the size. Keep in mind that a geothermal system may require excavation to bury the refrigerant lines, which accounts for part of the cost. As you consider your costs, remember that heat pumps double for your cooling system, so you remove the need for a standalone air conditioner.
The actual cost of running either system will vary greatly depending on the variable cost of electricity. This is why the unit’s energy consumption is so important to consider, with larger units consuming more power. Likewise, the colder it is outside, and the hotter you set the thermostat, the more your unit will run and the more power it’ll consume.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a heat pump can reduce your energy consumption by 50% compared to a comparable electric furnace. This works out to about an average of 3,000 kilowatt-hours every year for air-source heat pumps.
Planning for Colder Weather
It’s the coldest weather that makes or breaks the effectiveness and efficiency of heating systems. Regardless of what kind of heating system you have, it’s going to cost more to run during the coldest periods. While heat pumps are generally more cost-effective to run during mild weather, what happens during weather systems like a polar vortex?
In order to absorb heat from the air outside, the refrigerant coils must become colder than the air. Unfortunately, the temperature difference declines during the coldest weather, reducing a heat pump’s efficiency. This is why many heat pumps have a backup electric resistance heater that automatically activates when the outside temperature drops enough. This setup allows you to remain comfortable while achieving the most efficient electric heating option.
It’s hard to find companies like Bash Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. who have reliably served the Champaign community for over 70 years. Our expert technicians provide AC and heating installation, repair, and maintenance, along with humidity control and HVAC sheet metal fabrication. Call Bash Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. to schedule your consultation with one of our expert installers to discuss whether a heat pump is right for your home.